Coastal Walking


Patrick's Coastal Walking Poetry

  • Patrick and Coastal Walking

    Patrick’s major retirement project is to walk the length of the UK coastline to see the geology between the known haunts and to celebrate the magnificent coastline and visit the many communities that felt left behind and to put something back into them.

    This project has been the inspiration of many a poem including the “Midland Valley of Scotland” and “Industria Cumbria”.

    The latter poem is Patrick’s first published poem (New European, March 2020) and is dedicated to Kenneth White, founder of the International Centre of Geopoetics.

    Some word on coastal walking from Kenneth White, regarded as the founder of geopoetics:

    "While walking the coast, while moving among the mountains, with eye open for the flight of a ptarmigan, or a glint of sunlight on a loch, I was reading all the pertinent books I could get my hands on, looking both for information and for elements of a writing. The blue booklets of the British Regional Geology were constant companions.

    So, I keep walking the long coast, with all kinds of work in progress, making for a livelier and more enlightened world."

    Kenneth White, quoted by the International Centre of Geopoetics in its article "The Atlantic Shore — A letter on the origins of geopoetics".


    Source: Paul Meldrew (flickr CC)

  • Coasts and Poetry

    The sea has long been an inspiration for poets, and that inspiration continues to the present day. Simon Armitage, poet laureate, recently published his second "long-walk" book, "Walking Away", describing his experience of walking the South West Coast Path.

    Simon Armitage at Appledore

    Simon Armitage at Appledore, walking the South Coast Path (Source: The Guardian)

    Patrick is walking the entire UK coast, in stages. He hopes to have completed the journey by 2026. The map below will be updated as his completed further sections of the walk.

    Patrick's Coastal Walk Map

    Patrick's Coastal Walk (work-in-progress!)

  • Grandfather Rex

    Patrick's grandfather, Rex, was a headmaster in Purbeck, and used to take pupils to swim in the sea at a location known as "Dancing Ledge". Dancing Ledge is close to Worth Matravers where Patrick learned to swim, and close to the start in 2016 (and intended finish in 2026) of Patrick’s Coastal Walk. It is referred to in his poem "Wild Swimming" on this page.

    Here is a photo of grandfather Rex Corbett teaching boys to swim in the man-made pool at Dancing Ledge.

    Dancing Ledge, Purbeck

    Grandfather Rex at Dancing Ledge (PC)

    John Betjeman also wrote a poem about Dancing Ledge, Hearts Together, an extract of which is given below:

    Hearts Together (extract)

    How emerald the chalky depths
    Below the Dancing Ledge!
    We pulled the jelly-fishes up
    And threw them in the hedge

    (from "Nip in the Air" collection)
  • Wild swimming

    It all began at Dancing Ledge,
    where Rex had the pool blasted,
    long before we all graduated to “the big sea”,
    out from the baby ‘Lobster Pool’

    Wild swimming sets you free.
    Nothing beats being in the sea.
    Whether Winspit or Seacombe,
    every year, back we come

    To stand on the edge;
    To dive in from a ledge;
    To jump up high from a rock:
    It takes your breath away

    Who were Chapman and Pier?
    Of Pool and Bottom fame.
    What’s hidden in these names?
    We can only muse and wonder

    Brazilians have their Ipanema Beach,
    we have Purbeck’s hard rock culture:
    ‘Não minha praia’ they say today;
    ‘Like the Mappin Terraces’ we said in Dad’s day

    The sea’s phosphorescence
    draws in local adolescents.
    Skinny-dippers down from the Square,
    of night-time dangers, blissfully unaware

    Deadman’s Stile and Cannon Caves
    recall tragedies beneath the waves
    ‘He loved the birds and green places…..’,
    the chiselled epitaph to the unforgiving Races

    Swimmers, go in, do your best,
    free to strike out and find your path,
    dive and make for your own ‘far rock’
    and look back with the novice’s pride

    From summers (19)76 and (20)18
    whose golden memories
    captured in those three last swims
    Of bliss, bliss, and bliss

    footpath to Dancing Ledge (sign)

    Source: Liz & Johnny Wesley Barker (flickr, CC)

  • Industria Cumbria

    Everything seen through green haze
    Reflecting Workington-man's gaze
    In Corkickle your lickspittle
    Sounds doable and magical
    Walking out north from Whitehaven
    Picking up White's coastal path
    On the edge of Wordsworth country
    Another epic history
    Wind today making energy
    But where is the bright sunshine
    Like they promised us on the red bus
    No regret says Derwent egret
    Perhaps he'll return to Europe
    The whitest migrant of them all

    This poem was written on Brexit Day, 31st January 2020, and was published in The New European. It is dedicated to Kenneth White, who lives in Brittany.

  • Midland Valley of Scotland

    Like a crystal in the sky above us
    Scotland’s central rhombus
    maps from Port Glasgow to Stonehaven,
    to Siccar Point and down to Girvan

    The Carboniferous rift valley plain,
    with margins of red Devonian,
    pierced by intrusions of Arthur’s Seat,
    Berwick Law and the Heads of Ayr

    The Highland Boundary Fault
    traps coal seams and oil shales,
    with ribs of fluvial building stones,
    parallel to the Southern Upland Fault

    The isostatic raised beaches,
    now all caravans and golf courses,
    once proud ice-sculpted terrain,
    scoured out by gravity and frozen rain

    Majestic Firths of Clyde and Forth,
    supported by Rivers Tay and Irvine,
    draining Uplands and Highlands.
    No shortage of water; Adam’s wine.

    What would Scotland be
    without this hidden gem:
    fertile, productive, resourceful?
    The rocks - not just the people.

    Source: Flow Anders (flickr, CC)